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Where do you get your ideas?
By Lisa J. Peck
I. Researching You
The old cliché write what you know has some true. You can be your
own great resource for ideas, research information, and to tapping into a
more emotional story. Let's see what you can learn from you and how that
get you started onto writing your next great novel.
A. Your Emotions
B. Your Experiences
List 10 Experiences in you life when you felt:
Write the most powerful experience in personal narrative.
Now change it into fiction.
Do five of these exercises and look to see how they could fit together
to make a story.
C. Applying Your Everyday Knowledge to Your Story.
List 10 strong beliefs you hold.
Think of different ways you can explore that belief in a fiction story.
Think up of a character who holds the exact opposite belief. Make that
person compassionate and believable. If you can't come up with it
Play the "what if
" game. Think up of a scenario that would challenge
you on your belief. For example:
What if a person who firmly believed in pro-life was faced with the reality
that her daughter would die if she didn't abort the baby? What would the
mother do? Stick to her belief in life or try to talk her daughter into saving
her own life?
"What if you just can't imagine yourself doing something? Then, instead of
trying to think of what it would take to get you to do what your character
does, think of something you actually have done that is like what the character
does" Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card, 30.]
Think up a situation or an environment that would challenge this belief.
What would you do to fight against the injustice? What would your character
do? How could you make the fight for justice even harder to achieve?
List the professions your knowledgeable about.
List your hobbies.
If there was anything you could do, what would it be?
List your fields of interest.
What do you want to learn about?
What do you feel guilty for not learning?
What did you always wonder about? Or what would you like to know on a
more deep level?
List the type of books you read.
What nonfiction subjects are you drawn to?
What type of stories interested you?
What genre should you write?-Often it will match what you read.
Read a new genre to stretch your imagination. One genre I would like to try is . . .
Writer's block is helped by reading favorite author.
Reading favorite author can spar ideas.
What are unique customs that's just particular to the area you grew up
in? If moved around a lot what was unique about each different area? Or what
was unique to moving a lot that others would not know about?
What was the attitude of your family of origin with different social or
Did the regional culture clash with your family or blend? Did your family
conformed? Protest? Or simple not pay attention to the social pressures?
How did your family relate to the major happens in the country? At any
point did their attitudes change? If so what were the chief factors for the
What motivated your parents to act like they did and be the way they were?
What motivated your behaviors as a child?
Personal background (what's familiar to you).
How many were in your family of origin? How did this affect you?
Did you live in an apartment, house, or condo? How did this affect you?
Did you go to private school, public school, or were you home schooled?
How did this affect you?
Raised in a city, town, or suburb?
Was your family of origin healthy? Dysfunctional? If so in what ways?
Were you raised in religion? If so what? How did it impact you?
What aura does the place offer?
Describe the landscape.
What would frustrate newcomers?
What would old timers miss if they had to move away?
What are the speech patterns people use? What are the quirks?
What are the major smells?
Describe the different type of vegetation that grows there.
Layout of the area.
What are the unique customs particular to that area.
Places you visited or lived at.
a. How did the places shape you?
b. How did it shape your friends?
Stories that you embellish.
What do you collect? Or what did you collect as a child?
II. Researching Others
Taking characters "from life" can lead to bad fiction.
You may not know these people half so well as you think you do. After all,
you are never inside their memory, inside their soul-you don't really know
why they do the things they do. You know why they say they do them; you know
your own guesses. But when it comes to writing your character, you have to
know a lot more than you'll ever know about your friends or family. So it
isn't a matter of copying. You've still got to do a lot of invention before
a real-life character-even one you know well-is ready to hold down a job
in your fiction. (Characters and Viewpoint, Card, 27)
Taking characters "from life" can lead to personal problems.
You may discard the too familiar because it does not seem exciting enough
to you (it may be to other people).
Train yourself to look for the familiar from the eyes of a stranger.
"Never undertake to write about something that interests you only
mildly-especially if you are contemplating a book. The subject will certainly
not interest the reader if you, yourself, are not excited about it" (Writing
for Children and Teenagers, Wyndham, 83).
A. Observing Strangers
What do they do that's interesting? Annoying? Funny Weird? What are some
reasons for them to act that way? Play therapist. Look for motivation, to
why they are the way they are. What troubles them? What moves them?
B. Come up with reasons why something happens.
In your own life, use someone you know, or with a stranger you are observing,
or a scene you pass bye.
III. Fairytale twists/Fables/ Legends/or The rest of the story
A. Take an unbelievable situation in life and make it believable.
B. Funny Incidents
IV. Use Celebrities.
Exercise - Uses a celebrity and plop in a different story. Ex: Julie Roberts
V. Develop an interesting bit of reality and build on it.
A. Writing Exercises
Writing under strong emotion.
Reflections of experience
List of everyone you loved or loved you. (Or you hate.)
Pleasure during the day.
What's in your refrigerator before you shopping and after.
Everything on your desk.
What's in your backpack and/or purses.
How life be different if didn't marry
or didn't educate
What would do if won 10 million dollars.
Everything in wallet/ receipt.
Good things about where you live.
What you enjoy.
What would I do if I could do
Teachers you remember and what you remember about them.
Expiration dates of objects in kitchen.
Feelings you can't put into words.
Etc . . .
Dreams (Night dreams)
Another author's style: Start typing in a story you like. When inspiration
grabs you, take off on your own story. When you're done, delete the part
of the story that isn't yours.
Movie, Book and Tabloid Story Titles.
First lines of other works
Make lists of issues that will help create a story.
b. Things people do
c. Issues in peoples lives
d. Collection of want ads
e. First lines of songs
g. Movie titles
h. Book titles
i. Tabloid Titles
j. Book summaries
k. Collect fairy tales and legends
n. Sea creatures
o. People characteristics
p. Medical conditions and symptoms
s. City things
t. Town things
u. Geographical Features
w. Musical Instruments
x. Sports and Games
y. Baked Goods
cc. Fast Foods
ff. Ice Cream Flavors
gg. Kool-Aid Flavors
ii. Packaged Cereals
nn. Body Parts
oo. Crayola Crayons Colors
qq. Kinds of Clothes
rr. Kinds of Camping Equipment
vv. Face and body features
ww. Personality traits
xx. Facial expressions
yy. Types of Body Language
zz. Voice quality
bbb. Alternative Sciences
ccc. Hair styles and types of beard, mustaches
fff. Tools and Hardware
hhh. Foot ware
jjj. Decorations and Ornaments
kkk. Types of buildings
uuu. Ways of dying